NI abuse inquiry goes to Australia

Monday 19 May 2014 17.07
The inquiry is considering cases between 1922 and 1995
The inquiry is considering cases between 1922 and 1995

The public inquiry into institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland is to travel to Australia to interview alleged victims transferred there.

More than 100 children were removed from church-run residential homes in Northern Ireland, most to Western Australia after World War II.

An investigation chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart is examining whether they were physically, sexually or emotionally harmed during their journey.

Lawyers and support staff are expected to pay their second visit to Australia next month ahead of public hearings in September.

Mr Hart said: "The inquiry will examine the operation of the child migrant scheme in the context of children from Northern Ireland institutions who were sent to Australia.

"Before that module can start, we have to complete our preparatory work for it and a major part of that involves a second team from the inquiry going from Northern Ireland to Australia to speak to those applicants who were not seen during last year's trip."

The treatment of children, orphaned or taken away from their unmarried mothers, in residential homes run by religious orders of nuns or brothers is a key concern of the investigation being held in Banbridge, Co Down.

It is considering cases between 1922 and 1995.

A panel chaired by Mr Hart and established by Stormont's power-sharing government has to decide whether children might have been physically or sexually abused or emotionally harmed through humiliation.

It may also include simple neglect, not feeding or clothing people properly.

The Nazareth House Children's Home and St Joseph's Home, Termonbacca, were run by the Catholic Sisters of Nazareth nuns in Derry.

Those allegedly abused there have been giving evidence since the start of the year.

The religious order has already issued a public apology and a senior member is due to give evidence this afternoon.

Mr Hart said he expected public hearings relating to those institutions to be concluded by early next month.

The inquiry has heard from 70 witnesses and more than 18,000 documents have been placed before it relating to this stage of its work alone.

Inquiry staff had to consider a great many more documents than that to decide which were relevant.

Open oral testimony is due to finish in June 2015, with the inquiry team to report to the Executive by the start of 2016.

Nun denies abuse

A former nun interviewed by police investigating alleged abuse at a children's home in Northern Ireland has said she loved the young people, a public inquiry heard.

In the 1970s, the ex-nun worked at Termonbacca boy's home in Londonderry, run by the Sisters of Nazareth religious order, and admitted witnessing sexual acts. But the woman denied causing physical or sexual harm.

The treatment of young people, orphaned or taken away from their unmarried mothers, in residential homes run by nuns, brothers or the state is a key concern of the UK's largest ever institutional child abuse investigation being held in Banbridge, Co Down.

It is considering cases between 1922, the foundation of Northern Ireland, and 1995.

The former nun said: "I gave my best part of my life to caring for kids in Nazareth House and I loved every minute of it and I loved them.

"I cannot undo what people have said about me."

She was interviewed by police investigating assaults on children and said she did not beat one with a curtain rail.

"I would not treat a dog like that."